Social Media & Body Image: Helpful or Harmful?

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Today’s society thrives on social media. We have countless outlets on which we can share anything and everything we want through photos, videos, stories, and status posts. There’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, blogs & so much more. It’s that wonderful freedom of speech thing we have going on here in America. But are these sites doing us more harm than good?

In a recent study at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, researchers found that college-aged women with a greater emotional connection to Facebook were more likely to compare their bodies to their friends’ bodies and engage in risky dieting behaviors. Those who did not use the site to compare themselves to others were less likely to be concerned with their body image or engage in dangerous eating behaviors.

Social media is an extremely powerful tool; it can be used to hurt people to the point where they may never recover, but it can also be used to change people’s lives in amazing, positive ways. You know, like the people you see getting jumbo-sized $100,000 checks on Ellen.

First, let’s explore the CONS of social media. First of all, “cyber-bullying” is a very real and potentially life-altering phenomenon. We’ve all heard stories about teens that have been bullied over social media so much that it ultimately resulted in suicide. Getting called fat, ugly, and stupid over and over will eventually cause someone to break. No one should EVER feel like their life isn’t worth living just because someone abused their right of freedom of speech to tear them down – all without even showing their face. If any of you are obsessed with The Bachelorette like I am, then you saw and heard the outrageous, malicious words that were directed towards Kaitlyn via social media. Yes, she made some questionable decisions, but does she deserve to DIE or be hated by millions of people because of it? No. People make mistakes; most of us just don’t have our mistakes displayed on national television (thankfully). The people who said those things should be ashamed of themselves. Publicly criticizing others on social media, especially strangers, is a sign of insecurity. Take a look at yourself before you talk badly about someone else. As Thumper would say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Secondly, social media can cause us to bully ourselves. This might be hard for some of you to admit, but think about it. Do you think negatively about yourself because of some of the images you see on social media? Are you constantly comparing your body/looks to your friends, celebrities, or even complete strangers? Is your body image suffering because you can’t stop scrolling through pictures of girls who appear to be “perfect” and “have it all”? Do you obsess over the number of “likes” you get on Instagram and even get anxiety after it’s been 10 minutes and you’ve only gotten 1 like?! Oh. My. Gosh. CHILL OUT. My generation has gotten way too wrapped up in this stuff; we are always comparing ourselves to each other because with the way social media works now, this is way too easy to do. The negative thoughts you’re having about your body can be toxic and really affect the way you feel about yourself and the choices you make on a daily basis. As I mentioned before, comparing yourself to others on social media can lead to dangerous dieting behaviors and poor body image. We have to quit beating ourselves up. Just because your friend has flatter abs than you, you think it’s a good idea to skip lunch? We have to start realizing that we are all individuals and we are all beautiful in our own way. I’m 5’2″. I have a short torso, a big chest, and no hips. I will never look like a Victoria’s Secret model because I just wasn’t built that way. And I’m okay with that. I love myself for who I am. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I don’t compare myself to other girls. I absolutely do it too, unfortunately. But it’s a constant battle that I have with myself because I know that it doesn’t accomplish anything. Honestly, it just makes me feel like crap. I want to strive to be better than I was yesterday, not better than someone else. I have to be happy in my own skin and continue to do the things that I know help me feel good about myself, like eat well, exercise, and spend time with the people I love. I suggest you do the same. Quit comparing.


Now for the positives. I’ve been on social media for a long time now and I have definitely noticed a shift in the past few years. While it continues to be a place where some people choose to bully and say hurtful things, it is rapidly turning into this incredible place to support others, even people in different parts of the world. Ever since I started my blog, I have communicated with several other women with similar passions about their blogs or Instagram accounts. I have gotten advice from some of them about the world of blogging, or we simply support each other with a “follow” and frequent “likes”. It’s as if we’re all in this together (cue High School Musical cast); a big, happy, blogging/Instagramming family. We all want to spread the word about what we LOVE, whether that may be health, fitness, nutrition, recipes, fashion, jewelry, or home decor. So many women are becoming their own bosses by creating these networks and gaining thousands of supporters who feel inspired by them or share the same interests.

One of the most inspiring things I have come across on Instagram is the “Kayla Movement”. I’m sure many of you have heard of this by now, but in case you haven’t, I’ll give a brief explanation. Kayla Itsines is a personal trainer who created the Bikini Body Guide (a rigorous workout program) to help women achieve their “best self”. To her this doesn’t just mean getting six-pack abs; it means achieving a healthy lifestyle, a boost of confidence, happiness, and a huge support system of other women with the same goals. Kayla invited her millions of followers to create Instagram accounts specifically to share their fitness journeys with each other. These BBGers, “Kayla’s Army”, are constantly sharing progress & transformation photos, meals/snacks they had that day, recipes, workouts, and inspiration to help others who are also working on improving their fitness & lifestyle. I have browsed through tons of BBG accounts and I have been amazed by the overwhelming amount of love and encouragement that these girls give to each other. Constantly liking each other’s pictures and leaving comments like, “Way to go!” “You can do this!” “You look amazing!” “Keep up the good work!” And most of them have never even met in person! Finally girls are being KIND and supporting one another; we’ve come a long way since the Mean Girls days.

kayla pic
Kayla Itsines: personal trainer, creator of the Bikini Body Guides, inspiring women across the nation to reach their goals, live a healthy lifestyle, and most importantly, support one another.
kayla bbg transformation
This is just one example of some of the transformation photos you may come across from the BBG community. Pretty impressive results.
hannah foil bbg pic
This is actually a picture of someone I know who did BBG and has since gained 18 THOUSAND followers on Instagram! Women all over the world have been inspired by Hannah’s story and transformation, and now motivating others and sharing her progress is a huge part of her everyday life thanks to BBG.

#kaylasarmy #kaylamovement #bbg #bikinibodyguide #kaylaitsines #sweatwithkayla #fitprogress #bbggirls #bbgprogress #bbgjourney

Another equally inspiring community I’ve come across on Instagram is the “eating disorder recovery” group. Often hashtagged, #edrecovery or #eattolive, to name a few. While there are hundreds of thousands of members of “Kayla’s Army”, there are also a ton of women/men who are recovering from eating disorders and documenting their journey back to health using social media (Instagram). I think they deserve some recognition too, because eating disorders are incredibly difficult to overcome. (Disclaimer: I am not speaking from personal experience and I am not an expert on the subject, but I have known people who have suffered from an ED, and I have learned about them throughout my Dietetics coursework.) Contrary to popular belief, eating disorders are not a choice; they are psychological disorders and it is extremely hard to make the shift back to “normal” eating and lifestyle habits. Some people will never fully recover, but I think sharing your story on social media with people who are fighting a similar battle is a great way to stay motivated and hold yourself accountable. On the good and the bad days, you know there are others who understand your struggle and will say the words you need to hear to keep going in the right direction. Some of the posts and comments I’ve seen of these individuals encouraging each other to fight for their health has given me goosebumps. Keep it up, #edfamily.

#edrecovery #beatana #anarecovery #strongnotskinny #edarmy #edfamily #eattolive #progressnotperfection

ed recovery

Whether we are guilty of eating too much or too little, we all need a little accountability to keep us in check sometimes. Maybe using social media to do this isn’t such a bad idea after all.

The next time you see a girl post a photo and you scowl at your screen because of how perfect she looks, take a step back. Instead of acting jealous and forever refusing to like any of her photos, decide to double-tap that screen (for you older folks that don’t use Instagram, that means “like”) :). Hell, maybe even leave a comment complimenting her on whatever it is you’re envious about. “Your legs look great in this pic!” “Your hair is gorgeous!” Which one will leave you feeling better? Acting jealous and bitter, or brightening someone else’s day? Usually giving someone a compliment leaves you feeling happy because you made another person feel good. Don’t give a compliment if it isn’t genuine, but try to let go of the negativity. Instead of rolling your eyes at people’s posts about what they ate that night or the 4-mile run they went on, encourage them to keep up the good work! Believe it or not, a shocking amount of these people aren’t dying for attention; they are seeking support, or they are simply trying to motivate people like you and me. Shouldn’t we all cheer for each other when we do positive things for our health? I think so. But maybe that’s just me.

How to use social media in a positive way: 

  1. Don’t be a bully, especially to yourself.
  2. Quit comparing.
  3. Reach out to people with similar passions.
  4. Stop acting jealous.
  5. Support each other.

I can almost guarantee that once you start “liking” and supporting people for sharing their passions on social media, you will feel a weight lifted off your shoulders. You’ll stop feeling annoyed by the posts, and you’ll feel good about empowering them to keep it up. Is there something that you are doing in your own life that you need a little extra support with? Most likely. Treat others the way you want to be treated. The end.

So I’ve been doing this blog for a couple months now, and I still haven’t shared a richdecadent recipe with you all. I decided today would be that day. Are you excited!? This recipe is literally TO DIE FOR. Hence the name, Death By Chocolate. ; ) It is not healthy, BUT indulgent desserts are okay in moderation! 🙂 Make this for a birthday or special event and share with others so you don’t demolish the whole thing by yourself! Because trust me – you’ll be tempted to.

Death By Chocolate


  • 1 box of brownie mix
  • 4 boxes Chocolate Jello Mousse (we have a hard time finding this, but usually have luck at Walmart)
  • 1 bag Heath Bar toffee bits
  • 2- 8 oz tubs of Cool Whip Light


this is what the chocolate mousse looks like, so you know what to look for!


  1. Bake the package of brownies in a 9×13 pan (according to instructions on box) and cut into about 48 cubes.
  2. Prepare the chocolate mousse per directions and allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  1. Layer the following in a trifle bowl:
  • ½ of the brownie cubes
  • ½ of the chocolate mousse
  • ½ cup toffee bits
  • 1 tub of Cool Whip Light
  1. Repeat layers one time.
  2. On top of the last layer of Cool Whip, sprinkle some more mini chocolate chips.




Store leftovers in refrigerator.
Warning: this recipe is highly addictive. Try to consume in moderation – HA! Good luck!

eat well. live well. be happy. {quit comparing}

Shanna, RDN

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